LONDON - For the first week of the Olympics, Amanda Smock measured her every move. She parsed her diet, minded her bedtime, even counted her steps, hoping to preserve energy for what she knew might be the only three triple-jump attempts of her Olympic career.
"At least now I can let my hair down,'' she said.
Smock, who was born in Melrose, Minn., and lives in the Twin Cities, failed to advance through the qualifying stage of the triple jump Friday morning in Olympic Stadium.
She scratched on her first jump, then jumped 13.43 meters (44 feet, inches) and 13.61 meters (44-8), well off the qualifying mark of 14.40 (47-3). Her personal best is 14.18 meters (46-6).
Smock left the stadium feeling disappointed about her performance but enthralled by the atmosphere.
"I'm trying really hard to think about the whole experience and not my performance, because it wasn't my best day,'' she said. "I had really hoped to put together some good jumps today and it just didn't happen."
Hers was the story untold on NBC's nightly broadcasts, the story of an athlete who came to the Games without a realistic chance of a medal, knowing that the accomplishment was in the striving, and the participation.
Friday was the first day for track and field, and Olympic Stadium was packed, and loud, particularly when a standout British athlete was introduced.
"Highlights of the day are the moment I stepped in the stadium for the first time, and seeing the crowd, just a packed stadium, so electrified," Smock said. "They were right on board, with mostly the British athletes, but they were supportive of the American athletes as well.
"It was just so cool, and I am so happy to be here just to wrap up this whole year, this competition year. To be here at the Olympic Games is awesome, and I think with each passing year this is going to mean more and more, and the performance will kind of fade away. Taking this whole experience in, life in the village, brushing shoulders with the world's best athletes day after day. And then marching through closing ceremonies is something I'm looking forward to as well."
She said nerves weren't a problem. "I hate to think of excuses, but I'm typically used to getting six jumps and being able to rely on six opportunities to put together good jumps," she said. "To do it in three here is a little bit more challenging. But other girls are doing it so I have to step up my game a little bit.
"I can't put it together, what I did wrong today. I just didn't put it together in one jump. I had that one foul, that I would have liked to have a mark there, but I didn't put it together."
Smock, 30, sounded doubtful that she would try to qualify for the 2016 Olympics but said she'd like to compete once more this year, and probably compete next season. For the rest of the Olympics, she plans to tour London with her family and enjoy the Games as a spectator. No more counting calories or steps.
"Now,'' she said, "I can try some fish and chips."